Yesterday, members of local religious groups held a gathering near UCSB’s Eternal Flame in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The crowd of about 50 children, students, parents and senior citizens gathered on the lawn near Buchanan and Ellison Halls yesterday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Representatives from the Jewish, Buddhist, Quaker, Muslim and Baha’i communities spoke, read poetry and recited works discussing issues including world unity, hope, fear, peace, diversity and terrorism. Pieces were presented in the context of Martin Luther King Jr.’s larger goal of overcoming the separation between peoples and creating change through peaceful action.

Brice Taylor and Anne Gabeler, members of the Baha’i faith, organized their group’s sixth annual observance of the holiday this year. Taylor led the event, providing opening and closing speeches and philosophical remarks between speakers.

“I aspire to embrace all my racial components,” Taylor said of his racially diverse lineage. “I see in myself an ex-slave and an ex-slave owner.”

The theme of racial unity culminated in a speech by Sojourner K. Rolle, a longtime advocate for Santa Barbara’s African-American community.

“We are coming to a place where we can consider that race is not a barrier between us,” she said.

After which she led the crowd in the singing of “We Shall Overcome.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was recognized as a national holiday in 1986, 18 years after the civil rights leader was assassinated. King’s philosophy of nonviolent protest was a key force in the civil rights movement from 1957-1968 and won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Another celebration honoring King will be held tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. in front of Cheadle Hall. Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity will lead a silent march to the Educational Opportunity Program building where they will gather to hear a speech given by a member of the fraternity.

“The march is an opportunity to reflect on those lost in the struggle and those lost personally,” said Justin Palmer, the chapter president.

This will be the sixth year the fraternity, of which Martin Luther King Jr. was a member, will sponsor the march. The group expects about 75 to 100 people to attend the event. They have sent fliers to faculty members and welcome anyone who would like to attend.

“I think that a lot of the time the UCSB campus is not united,” Palmer said. “Events like this provide chances to transcend color boundaries and pay respect to those who are lost.”